The Angel of the Bottomless Pit: Challenging Our Comfortable Worldview, Part 2

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4. The smoke from the pit darkens an already darkened sun.

When I say “an already darkened sun” I do so because of Revelation 8:12:

Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

Here the sun is already greatly affected when the fourth trumpet sounded. As an aside, this verse assumes that, like the sun and the stars, the moon gives off its own light (cf. Matt. 24:29. Do with that what you wish, but I always take the “assured results of science” with a big grain of salt).

A Chronological Conundrum

Having said this, the question of chronology arises. When exactly is the fifth trumpet blown? We have to ask this question because in a purely sequential understanding of Revelation, not only must Revelation 8:12 be considered, there has already been an obscuration of the sun at the opening of the sixth seal:

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. (Revelation 6:12-13)

This passage looks very climactic, but many assert that it happens prior to opening of the bottomless pit at the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9. Robert Thomas (ad loc) employs a consecutive structure for the Apocalypse that places the fifth trumpet towards the end of the time covered by the Book, which would be towards the end of the 70th Week. But Arnold Fruchtenbaum thinks the fifth trumpet occurs about two and a half to three years into the Tribulation. In my opinion this is hard to reconcile with Matthew 24:29:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven…

Are not Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12-13 describing the same events? I do realize that some scholars teach that there are five end times “blackouts” (e.g. Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, 220-221). Still, even if one allows this for sake of argument, just how many times do the stars fall out of the sky? This is one reason why I hold that Revelation 6 runs through the entire 70th Week from year 1 to year 7. From this vantage point I believe the fifth trumpet occurs before the sixth seal. Revelation 8:12-13 doesn’t fit comfortably after the cosmic mayhem described in Revelation 6:12-17. It looks anti-climactic.

Facing the Literal

Whatever one makes of the chronological question, it may be said that the reference in Revelation 9:2 may be to the initial outcome of the opening of the shaft of the pit, in which case it would be of temporary duration. Therefore, for a certain period (perhaps a few weeks?) the already blighted sunlight is obscured further by the smoke belching out of the pit.

Tony Garland takes an admirably determined literal approach to the description:

The plume of smoke that arose is probably one of the “pillars of smoke” which Joel described in the “awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30). A similar plume of smoke attended the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Gen. 19:28). Here we see further evidence that the abyss is deep within the earth and probably of a great temperature due to subterranean activity below the earth’s crust. (A Testimony of Jesus Christ, I. ad loc.)

So the smoke from the pit roars (“like the smoke of a great furnace”) into the atmosphere obstructing the light of the sun and the moon.

5. Infernal “Locusts” come out of the pit and are commanded (by God?) what or who to attack. They are very particular.

The “locusts” that come out of the pit are not like any locusts any naturalist has ever set eyes upon. They strike men with something akin to a scorpion’s sting. They are truly horrific. Just the sight of one would chill the bones. They are demonic (though not necessarily demons per se), but they are under authority. They have a king, whom we shall be studying later, but the command not to hurt the greenery and not to kill people appears to come from God (e.g. what would Satan care about the plants and trees, nevermind humans?). Beale, 494, notes the same “authorization clause” in Rev. 6:2-8 and 8:2. Only those 144,000 sealed Jewish males (see Rev. 7:4-8 and Rev. 14:3-4) will escape these creatures.

6. For a space of five months they torment those who do not have the seal of God.

Strange as it seems, the other saints are not said to be immune from the strikes of demonic beasts (although Fruchtenbaum, Ibid, 229, extends immunity to them. He may be right, but it is a surmise).

Now all of this is quite disturbing: the Tribulation will see the Earth we know altered both by plagues and famines, by the smiting of creation above and below, and by the infernal realm with its real monsters. But we must now turn our attention to the main character in this plot; the “king” of the locust-scorpions.

And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. (Revelation 9:11)

The king is called “the angel of the bottomless pit.” He has a name, given interestingly, in both Hebrew and in Greek; the traditional language of Israel and the language (i.e. the lingua franca) of the first century biblical world. We shall explore this enigmatic king next.

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There are 7 Comments

josh p's picture

Good one Paul. I appreciate your attempt to read the text plainly. I think a lot of dispensational strangeness would be dispensed with if more came to understand that Matt. 24 parallels the seal judgements. Regarding Garland, a while ago some friends and I did a multiple year study of Revelation. Garland was invaluable to me. I love that he makes it all available for free. He and Thomas were my most consulted commentaries.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I agree with the Matthew 24 correlation.  

 

 just how many times do the stars fall out of the sky? 

IMO, John records what he saw in his vision, and we are left to try to figure what it represents.  In the case of "a third" of the moon and stars, it could represent the idea that the days are shortened by 1/3.  Mark 13:20 reads:

And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.

Interpreting Revelation as literally as possible means recreating John's vision as accurately as possible, and then looking for the most likely meaning based upon Scriptural usage.  Taking a futurist view as we do doesn't mean that what John saw actually happens as he saw it.

For example, just because John saw horses in his vision of the Battle of Armageddon doesn't mean there will be horses in that battle.

BTW-- I share your affinity for Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul Henebury's picture

Josh,

Tony Garland is a friend of mine.  He'll be chuffed to hear your compliment.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

Thanks for your push back Ed.  If one looks at the verses around Rev. 6:13 (viz. Rev. 6:12-16), they are replete with references to other passages.  Day of the Lord passages like Joel 2:31; Isa. 2:19-21; 13:9-10; 34:4 reflect the same thing, and Luke 23:43 says that the sun was darkened at the Crucifixion, which is not metaphorical.  Your allusion to the days being shortened by a third refers to Rev. 8:12 and the third trumpet, which could and probably should be interpreted along your lines (although I think Mk. 13:20 refers to the extent of the time of persecution).  However, in the article I cited Rev. 6:13 and the sixth seal, which I take quite literally. 

As for Dr. Fruchtenbaum, I have had classes with him (long ago) and I have touted Israelology for a long time, but I find myself disagreeing with him as much as agreeing with him when I read his other work.  Actually, I have wondered what Mr Vasicek makes of him! 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thanks, Paul.  I stand corrected -- my comments were better applied to the earlier reference in Revelation 8:12.  You are right.  As far as 6:13, you said, referring to the heavenly bodies,

which I take quite literally. 

Think about this.  We are agreed that this is what John SAW, and we both take that literally.  But, even if someone standing on earth during Daniel's 70th week saw exactly what John saw (and I don't think he would), it would, at best, appear to be happening.  IMO, giant stars hundreds of times larger than the sun would not fall to earth, but would encapsulate it.  A viewer might observe shrapnel if the stars exploded (if God sped up the time it took all these exploding star parts to reach reach the earth from light years to very short periods).  This is, rather, the language of appearance at the most; it is representationalism at the least.  IMO, this may translate to major cosmic disturbances and perhaps atmospheric changes that hide the stars, or perhaps meteors fell at the same time viewers saw stars exploding. Although it could refer to fallen angels associated with stars (both are linked as the "host of heaven") I agree that some sort of cosmic disturbances are involved.

 Actually, I have wondered what Mr Vasicek makes of him! 

Regarding Dr. Fruchtenbaum, I appreciate his work on Israelology.  I would say mixed in general, but he is accurate on the important things.  I wish Israelology had been written after the advent of Progressive Dispensationalism; I would like to see his opinion of that (I lean in that direction, along the lines of Saucy rather than Bock). I have both Israelology and Footsteps (as well as a commentary on Hebrews-James) in my (now pared down) library.  But these are books I have just  referenced here and there.  I have observed some novel interpretive comments that I thought missed the mark, but I cannot document them off the top of my head.  I don't have the discipline to be an academic, but I dabble.  Footsteps has been of some help to me, but I have not read it, only referred to it.  

On page 53 of Footsteps, the second new paragraph, he seems to agree with you on the meaning of the term "cut short" in Mark 13:20 as figurative for "determined."  He bases it on the Hebrew root. I do believe that Jesus spoke Mishnaic Hebrew, and thus his words are translated by the Gospel authors into Greek, so Hebrew matters.  He might be right, but this is an example, to me, of a novel interpretation.  But, as I mentioned, I am no academic.  Just a Bible-loving pastor with a special interest in Jewish Roots backgrounds for hermeneutical reasons and a believer in TWO main themes in Scripture (The Scarlet Thread of Redemption and God's Undying Faithfulness to Israel).

I very much appreciate your thoughts and enjoy learning from you. I hold you in highest regard!

 

"The Midrash Detective"

josh p's picture

He is an original thinker. Unfortunately he is a little too original at times. For instance his belief that the anti-Christ will be born of Satan. Israelology is excellent though as is Footsteps. 

Paul Henebury's picture

D'ya think?  Smile

Seriously though, Dr. F has quite a few odd teachings, some of which he has gotten from G. H. Pember. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

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